6 Tips To Survive Your Spring Allergies
May 5, 2015
Spring allergy season has arrived, and there is speculation in the media about the possibility of a “pollen vortex” or “pollen tsunami” as a result of the challenging winter experienced in most parts of the US. While the extent of this remains uncertain, many individuals do experience negative effects during this time due to temperature fluctuations and the abundance of blooming flowers. Whether you have been dealing with hay fever for years or are facing spring congestion for the first time, here are some tips to help you navigate allergy season successfully.
1. Is it really allergies?
While you may attribute your symptoms to allergies triggered by ragweed and pollen in your yard or garden, it’s possible that you are simply dealing with a common cold or virus. To distinguish between the two, consider whether you have experienced similar symptoms during this time of year in the past. Reflect on your location and activities at the time. If your symptoms worsen after spending time outdoors and recur every spring, it is likely that you are indeed experiencing allergies. However, if this is a new occurrence for you, it could be a cold. Allergy specialists suggest that if the symptoms persist for more than a week, and you experience itching in your eyes, ears, and mouth, thin and clear mucus, as well as an exacerbation of symptoms with outdoor activity, allergies may be the cause. Nonetheless, it’s always a good idea to consult your physician or healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis.
If you do narrow it down to allergies, you still have to figure out the exact culprit. People can develop allergies to tree pollen, ragweed, grass, and a variety of other outdoor grasses; mold, however, can be found both outside and inside. It’s important to try to ascertain the cause because the actions can vary widely. For example, if your root allergen is pollen, it’s advised to keep the windows closed during the high pollen season. But if your allergy is more to dust and mold, it’s suggested to keep the windows open and the house well ventilated to the outside. Consult a traditional or alternative medical practitioner to assist you in finding out the root causes of your symptoms.
2. Treat your symptoms early.
Medical professionals recommend getting a headstart on treating seasonal allergies as medications are best able to work when the nasal passages and sinuses are not already inflamed. And the same medication may not always work from year to year, so you may need to try a number of different meds in order to find the one that works for you.
Dr. Clifford Bassett, MD, medical director of the Allergy and Asthma Care Center of New York, recommends matching the over-the-counter medication to the symptoms. If your main complaints are nasal congestion, sneezing, and a runny nose, he advises using a nasal spray like azelastine (Astelin). (However, he also warns patients to stop using nasal decongestant sprays after five days, since the spray irritates the lining of the nose and can cause exacerbated symptoms including a rebound runny nose.) If allergies typically make you feel itchy, try non-sedating oral antihistamines such as loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), or cetirizine (Zyrtec). If your allergies make it hard to sleep, take Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton which are 100% sedative antihistamines.
If your allergies are really bad, consider scheduling an appointment with an allergist who can prescribe longer-lasting meds with less drowsy effects. An allergist can help you narrow down the cause of your symptoms and, if necessary, provide immunotherapy to perhaps find permanent relief.
3. Rinse the nasal passages with saline.
The high majority of experts recommend a saline nasal wash daily during pollen season. Salt water rinsing clears and cleans the allergens from your nasal passages, and reduces inflammation. You can use a non-pharmaceutical saline spray (just salt and water), or the more advanced Neti pot to help clear allergens from your passages. A Neti pot (or nasal irrigation pot) allows you to pour liquid in one nostril, through your nose, and out the other nostril while breathing through your mouth. The process can be clumsy for beginners, but once you get the hang of it practitioners become evangelists of the procedure. Repeat once or twice a day to alleviate symptoms, and make sure you use distilled or boiled tap water (cooled down so as not to burn your nasal cavity). For a complete list of guidelines to safely use a Neti pot, visit the FDA’s website.
4. Consider alternative medicine and treatments.
Over-the-counter medications with their side effects can still leave many wanting for symptom relief. Many people report effective relief of their seasonal allergies with such diverse treatments as yoga, acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic adjustment, and natural remedies such as cayenne pepper and green tea (advocated even by Dr. Bassett). A lesser known non-invasive treatment called NMT (neuromodulation technique) has shown great promise in treating allergies and other conditions. Whatever treatment you decide to seek, the guidance of trained professionals in all of these fields can be invaluable. You will find a wealth of information online, and, as in educating yourself about anything, with some research and discernment you can accumulate a number of trusted sources.
5. Limit pollen exposure.
If you’ve narrowed the cause down to pollen, there are definitely ways you can limit your exposure to the nasty yellow stuff. Keep the windows closed at home, wear sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat to keep it off your hair/out of your eyes, and avoid the outdoors at midday when pollen levels are the highest. Check the local pollen counts through your local news or at Weather.com; you may want to exercise indoors when levels are at their highest. When you arrive home, make sure to remove your outside clothing, leave the shoes by the door, and take a shower after being outside (washing your hair and body). If symptoms are really awful, consider wearing an N95 surgical mask while outside during pollen season.
6. Take good care of yourself.
Allergists unanimously agree that adopting certain practices can greatly help in managing seasonal allergies. These practices include getting sufficient sleep, effectively managing or avoiding stress, engaging in regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy diet. Since allergies are an immune response, it is crucial to strengthen the immune system to minimize the severity of the reaction. While your body will still produce antibodies to the allergens, taking care of yourself can increase your “trigger point” for experiencing symptoms. The most effective way to strengthen your immune system is through excellent self-care, which involves eating nutritious meals, engaging in regular physical activity, prioritizing quality sleep, and giving yourself the necessary breaks and relaxation. Although it may pose challenges, remember that taking care of yourself is invaluable, and you deserve to prioritize your well-being.
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This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is intended for reference only, not personalized advice, and should not be treated as such. For all medical conditions and decisions, please consult your physician or trained medical practitioner.